Ghosts?

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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What is the Orthodox teaching about ghosts? I have always been very skeptical about the concept of ghosts, because it seems that upon death the soul is in God's hands - going either to heaven, hell, or if the toll houses theory is correct then being purged of sins before entering paradise. So the idea that a disembodied soul remains lingering on earth because it is confused and doesn't realize it's dead seems to have no biblical or patristic support. However, the concept of ghosts was apparently embraced by the Jews, because when the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they thought He was a ghost.

I tend to think that "ghosts" are nothing other than demons, trying to deceive people as they always do. But I am curious to know what our Orthodox Faith teaches about this subject. Did any of the Church Fathers discuss the phenomenon? Did Father Seraphim Rose discuss it in "Orthodox and The Religion of The Future"?

Thanks in advance.


Selam
 

Nikolaos Greek

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Ghosts exist not. They are demons. My mother and grandmother at my grandmother's house saw three times a little's boy ghost. They show only it's head while passing outside the window.
Our priest came and did a Lesser blessing of waters and just then bells rang and our priest started shouting with prayers to the demons to leave. Until now they have seen nothing again.
 
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We forget that there are also Angels, who do God's work among us. They are always less mentioned than those demons. But they are mentioned throughout the Bible, so we must believe, even if we never talk about them much.
 

pmpn8rGPT

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Aside from a few Saints who miraculously appear to certain people (if you consider those to be "ghosts"), "ghosts" are as Nikolaos Greek put it, demons.
 

Luke

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I don't believe in ghosts, save one: 
  :)
 

Kerdy

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No ghosts, but I don't know what Orthodoxy itself has to say on the matter.  If I find something, I will share it.
 

Asteriktos

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There is a belief among some Orthodox--whether superstition or pious custom I don't know--that the soul lingers on earth for a certain period after death. I can't recall coming across quotes of Church Fathers which confirmed this, however. There is also this passage:

"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." - Matt. 27:51-53

Would these qualify as ghosts? I suppose it depends on how you define the term. Though this may be better described as either a vision or a miracle than an example of ghosts.

 

IoanC

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I believe the same, that once you die physically, you cannot do anything by your will. God may send you into the world in a vision, or something like that, but for a holy purpose (as the dead saints have appeared to people). Ghosts on the other hand must definitely be a demonic thing; it disturbs our peace and leads to all sorts of strange beliefs about the spiritual realm.
 

IoanC

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PoorFoolNicholas said:
you cannot do anything by your will.
So after death free will is gone?
Good question that I thought could be raised given what I had said. Not free will, but rather the liberty (as I use this word) to move about "as you wish" (well, even in this world there are limitations). After you die, you are free and you do the things you want, but as long as God agrees (and He would agree only to the good things that He knows). In this world, you can even do evil or useless things; you have a certain kind of mobility. After you die, you can choose to be evil, but you can't do evil.
 

Shanghaiski

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There are several books by Orthodox authors of some authority which address this issue in part.

I think discernment is needed when determining what's going on. They could be demons, they could be hallucinations, or they could be some manifestation allowed by God's providence to encourage prayer for the departed. One case calls for an exorcist, another for a psychiatrist, another for confession, and another for a memorial service.
 

PoorFoolNicholas

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I think discernment is needed when determining what's going on. They could be demons, they could be hallucinations, or they could be some manifestation allowed by God's providence to encourage prayer for the departed. One case calls for an exorcist, another for a psychiatrist, another for confession, and another for a memorial service.
Exactly brother! We are far too quick to label this as demonic, when sometimes it clearly isn't.
 

Nikolaos Greek

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Free will still exists after death.
One you die as I know the soul visits the earth just to see it's body being put into the grave. To see it for one last time.
 

IoanC

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Nikolaos Greek said:
Free will still exists after death.
One you die as I know the soul visits the earth just to see it's body being put into the grave. To see it for one last time.
That's not exactly accurate. After death the soul remains near the body for a while, see its past, then sees the people he knew as they cry or whatever, and then there is a series of things that happen starting with going through what are known as the "toll-houses". As far as free-will, yes, with certain limitations imposed by the process that it goes through which is guided by God.
 

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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Thanks for the replies, but so far there's only been speculation. Yet some interesting questions have come up, like whether or not the soul retains free will after death. I'd certainly be interested to know what the Church Fathers say about that topic as well.

But I don't want this thread to degenerate into a debate about toll houses. I want to stick to what the Church, the Fathers, and the Scriptures have to say about ghosts. Are ghosts - i.e. disembodied human souls that inhabit the earthy realm - acknowledged by the Church, or are these ghostly manifestations simply demons? Is there a specific Church teaching about this? What do the Fathers say?

Thanks.


Selam
 

IoanC

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PoorFoolNicholas said:
so far there's only been speculation.
This...

If you really think you have some reliable map of the afterlife then...
Well, what I said previously is from Elder Cleopa. There is a long article, but I can't translate it all. Maybe try google translate: http://www.sfaturiortodoxe.ro/drumul.htm

By the way, I try to not speak nonsense (I don't know the policies of others here), but it's impossible to always have quotes from fathers and "reliable sources", especially on topics that rather new or very particular.
 

Kerdy

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IoanC said:
PoorFoolNicholas said:
so far there's only been speculation.
This...

If you really think you have some reliable map of the afterlife then...
Well, what I said previously is from Elder Cleopa. There is a long article, but I can't translate it all. Maybe try google translate: http://www.sfaturiortodoxe.ro/drumul.htm

By the way, I try to not speak nonsense (I don't know the policies of others here), but it's impossible to always have quotes from fathers and "reliable sources", especially on topics that rather new or very particular.
^ This....

Or through personal experience and conversations.
 

TheTrisagion

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I have no idea what the Orthodox position is, but my personal feeling is that ghosts are just one's mind being overactively stimulated by ones surrounding causing them to imagine things that do not actually occur. I don't think ghosts are demons any more than I think mermaids or unicorns are demons. 

I'm sure, however, there will be others who vehemently disagree with that and say how they have seen ghosts, but I would just refer them back to my original sentence.
 

PoorFoolNicholas

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are just one's mind being overactively stimulated by ones surrounding causing them to imagine things that do not actually occur.
Kinda like at Church, right?
 

TheTrisagion

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PoorFoolNicholas said:
are just one's mind being overactively stimulated by ones surrounding causing them to imagine things that do not actually occur.
Kinda like at Church, right?
No, I'm pretty sure that the liturgy actually occurs when I'm at Church.  I don't think I am imagining it.  I could be wrong, I suppose...  ::)
 

PoorFoolNicholas

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My point is you could use the exact same logic to state that NOTHING is happening at the liturgy, including the Eucharist.
 

TheTrisagion

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PoorFoolNicholas said:
My point is you could use the exact same logic to state that NOTHING is happening at the liturgy, including the Eucharist.
You are comparing apples to oranges.  No one is claiming that they are sensorily perceiving the bread become actual flesh and the cup become actual blood.  If they did say that, I would probably deduce that they too have an over-active imagination.  We accept it on faith, but not faith in our own senses, faith in what God has passed on to us.
 

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I'm reviving this thread as it's a topic my mother and I were recently discussing.

As a child in the 1960s, she lived in a house with her parents and sister that was "haunted". No doubt about it. All four of them plus visitors to the home witnessed the phenomenon. Disembodied voices, apparitions that looked like black smoke and formless shapes appearing and disappearing, furniture moving (including a chair while a family friend was sitting in it), a neighbour's dog barking at something at a door while no one was in the house, etc. According to neighbours, the owners previous to the one my family bought it from died in the house (the wife passed of cancer and the husband was found dead of a heart attack in the living room). The man my grandparents bought it from had moved his wife and kids out of the house and was sleeping on the floor of one of the bedrooms.

A neighbour, who was a friend of my grandmother, attended a nearby spiritualist church (which is still there and operating). My grandmother, a serial church-shopper, went with her to a meeting. When she walked into the room, one of the "psychics" immediately approached her and told her that there was a trapped spirit in her home that it was trying to make its presence known. This particular neighbour was not aware of the issue and could not have previously informed this person. My mother's family ended up moving after about three years.

I live in the same city today, and that house is still standing and is frequently for sale. Reading into that, it seems there's still activity in the house.

Now, I don't know what the cause is, and sure, it could be a demon impersonating human dead (and perhaps the psychic's knowledge was demonic in origin). But it definitely happened. And I find these things very interesting, even if I'm not so interested in Ghost Adventures and the various other cartoonish shows that now dominate the field. As far as I understand it, most Orthodox would caution against those interests as an unhealthy fixation with the demonic.
 

LizaSymonenko

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I would agree... don't be "too" interested in such stuff.

Does it happen? Definitely.

Is it the ghost of a dead person? I would wager not... because when the rich man who had died, and saw the beggar Lazarus sitting at the bosom of Abraham while he suffered from heat and thirst, asked that Lazarus be sent to warn his living brothers before it was too late for them... the answer was "no".

So, my guess would be it is demonic...
 

Saxon

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I would agree... don't be "too" interested in such stuff.

Does it happen? Definitely.

Is it the ghost of a dead person? I would wager not... because when the rich man who had died, and saw the beggar Lazarus sitting at the bosom of Abraham while he suffered from heat and thirst, asked that Lazarus be sent to warn his living brothers before it was too late for them... the answer was "no".

So, my guess would be it is demonic...
That's true. What's interesting, in my mom's case at least, is that rather than leading her "astray" spiritually, she said having literally witnessed spirits and being confirmed in the knowledge that a "supernatural" realm absolutely exists, she could never be an atheist. Mind you, she remains a Protestant and ambivalent about Orthodoxy.

I've had a couple of experiences, one which quite disturbs me. I was born in 1989, and my maternal grandfather died in 1978, so I never met him and, as a child, didn't even know his name. One day when I was around six or seven, I was watching TV alone in the house while my mom was outside working in the garden. The phone rang. I answered it and the line was full of static, and a man's voice came through and asked for my mom by name. I asked who it was and he replied "it's Frederick". I remember becoming very frightened for no discernible reason and hung up before running outside to tell her. We didn't have call display and the "*69" for last caller redial said the number was unknown. My mom went absolutely white when I said exactly what happened - my grandfather's name was Frederick and it was the anniversary of his death.

The other was more fleeting. I was around the same age, maybe a bit older, and was looking at houses with my parents and their realtor. We viewed this one house which was an estate sale and completely empty. The atmosphere in this house was awful. It felt like someone was standing in your face and glaring you down, and the air felt "heavy". Even the realtor said she was uncomfortable and we quickly left. It felt like the departed owner was still there and didn't want people in "their" house.

Neither of my experiences are concretely evidential, at least in the way supported by many witnesses in my mom's case. The call might have been a hoax, and a bad feeling in a strange house doesn't say much. But I would be interested in getting more viewpoints about the ability of the spirits of the dead to contact the living. I understand they can, in direct or indirect ways, if the prayers of the living are needed. But then there are also the demons, and so one has to be exceptionally discerning.
 
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